UCP of Central Arizona – The Early Years
After the establishment of UCP National in 1949, a small but dedicated group of parents in Phoenix formed UCP of Central Arizona in 1952. Their goal: to change Arizona’s perception and treatment of people with cerebral palsy, to create an understanding and accepting society in which their children could lead healthy, productive lives.
It wasn’t long before these parents realized that cerebral palsy wasn’t the only disability facing obstacles. UCP of Central Arizona soon expanded their scope to include disabilities of all types. With autism, sensory processing disorders, genetic disorders, orthopedic disabilities, and many more now under their umbrella, UCP of Central Arizona worked in homes across the state to provide the care and support that would raise the quality of life for children with disabilities.
As our dedicated therapists and health professionals supplied their expertise to struggling families, the nation experienced a radical shift in the treatment of people with disabilities. The 1960s and ‘70s saw a veritable civil rights movement for the disability community; the 1965 Title XIX amendment to the Social Security Act provided financial aid to people with disabilities and their families; The 1970 Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Amendmentsgave the first legal definition of developmental disabilities, and offered grants for services and facilities that could help those with developmental disabilities; The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 made it illegal for any federal or public institutions receiving federal funds to discriminate on the basis of disability. Legislation protecting people with disabilities continued to snowball, culminating in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Arizona made its own strides, too. The 1970 Senate Bill 1057 made it illegal to confine non-dangerous residents to State hospitals against their will. People with intellectual disabilities would no longer be forcefully confined to institutions built for the mentally ill, and residency fell from over 2,000 people to 300 in a few short months. The Arizona Long Term Care System was created in 1988 to provide care for adults with physical and intellectual disabilities, among many other developments.
The obstacles that had once faced those with disabilities were being broken down, creating a whole new set of hurdles to be conquered. The facility that housed UCP of Central Arizona in the later part of the last century was a storefront location in a two-story strip mall near Central and Hatcher. The next-door neighbor was a liquor store and physical therapy was provided on the small hill behind the building that could have used a “do not litter” sign. It was small. And tight. The occupational therapy room was about the size of a large living room with three dividers, making spaces for three different therapists to work at one time. As children and adults with disabilities began to realize that they were valued in our society like never before and services became more and more available, the cramped quarters of UCP were pushed to their limits. But, the most overwhelming thing about those days wasn’t the limited facilities or long, hard days – it was the feeling of passion and commitment for the purpose among the staff and the positive strides made every time an obstacle was removed in the life of another.